Attack on Titan (2013) Review

Attack on Titan is the blockbuster summer anime of 2013. It’s the show everyone is talking about, and above all, raving about. In fact it almost seems like if you aren’t watching this show, you’re missing out on the coming of Christ. But is this show as amazing as everyone claims it to be? Welllllllll…

Attack on Titan drops us into a world where humanity is almost extinct and their natural predators are creatures called titans who are as tall as buildings and only exist to eat humans. Due to this danger, humanity has safely confined itself inside 3 incredibly huge walls, that is until an even larger titan shows up and smashes a hole in one of them. Here’s where we meet Erin Jaeger who barely escapes the destruction of his hometown with his two friends Armin and Mikasa. After witnessing his mother become titan lunch, Erin vows an oath to kill all the titans and thus he and his friends join the military. From there we encounter many an epic battle with the titans, but for the sake of spoilers I won’t go into details.

Attack on Titan utilizes a few incredibly long and extremely well paced story lines over the course of its 25 episodes. The almost nonstop action makes it extremely hard to not marathon this show. Well that and the infuriating cliffhangers that always manage to completely fuck over everything you thought you knew. It’s safe to assume that the strong pacing is thanks to Attack’s director Tetsuro Araki, whose other works include Death Note and High School of the Dead. If you’ve seen those shows, you’ll see his fingerprints all over this. Now that doesn’t mean that Attack is nonstop action. There are many points where the plot comes to a dead stop and we get some character interactions or back story, which actually service the show nicely.

Speaking of characters lets take a look at them shall we. Erin is the protagonist, yes, but it takes a really long time for him to develop beyond “Kill Titans!” and that journey is a rather inconsistent one at that. In order to progress his character we’re usually subjected to a confusing monologue about humanity or what-have you, but for the most part he just gets you pumped up with his screaming about willpower that makes you wonder if he’s going to put on a Green Lantern ring halfway through the battle. It’s not that he’s a bad character, just that he’s not as developed as some of the others tend to be, for example Armin. Armin is probably the most well rounded character in the show, starting out a Shinji-esque coward and growing into a loyal and brilliant tactical mind. Mikasa is portrayed as being flawless, and thus is the stone cold one of the crew as per anime clichés. Her lack of flaws is probably her greatest flaw, and although she had the opportunity to grow into a great character, the story unfortunately got in the way. The greatest and worst part of Attack is that any character can die, and thus talking about the supporting cast is almost impossible beyond generalizations. We meet a lot of people while the trio is in training and even more after they officially join, and it becomes hard to keep track of al of them. Unimportant characters become important, important ones fall to the wayside and amongst all the dying, it’s hard to keep track of who we’re supposed to care about. The rest of the people who exist in the world tend to only serve as an obstacle to our heroes, thanks to their stupidity, which comes off as just being human, so I can’t call it bad writing.

The animation is done by Studio Wit, a small offshoot of Production IG and for a fairly new studio, even with IG’s help, this animation is fucking gorgeous. The art style is rather unique, going for thick black outlines around all the characters to help distinguish them from each other and the background. The characters themselves have an inconsistency to their design, with varying degrees of how western they look. Some characters have more realistic faces, while others have the typical large anime eyes. This inconsistency is also reflected in the titan designs, as they vary from creepy joker to kawaii. If anything this is what will be off-putting to people watching the show. The art style of the characters complements the medieval setting and really makes it seem European or Germanic in its influence, particularly when the choirs boom in. One of the most unique concepts the show has is the 3D maneuver gear, which the soldiers use to get around and battle in. These enable them to fly through the air like Spider-man and whenever they use them in battle, the animation quality soars to an orgasmic degree as the camera zooms and rotates with them, all the while maintaining a fluidity and consistency that is truly movie quality. All these great shots come with a price though, as during the more quiet parts the animation becomes non-existent, with characters talking over pictures or just two pictures moving like a motion comic. And while this can be distracting, it is totally and utterly worth it.

The music is amazing with all the tracks able to emotionally manipulate you in just the right way. Even without the scenes to complement them, the songs are all high quality, with a spectrum ranging from rock and roll to orchestral choir being represented. The music may be a little distracting because of how powerful it tends to be, but fuck it who cares? The intros are both amazing, probably the best I’ve ever seen. The first intro is one most effective ever at being able to pump you up for the upcoming episode. It also, once again, features many Tetsuro trademarks, which is fine by me since he creates fantastic openings. The second intro is not as appropriate, but is more musically diverse and the accompanying animation makes it downright cinematic. The outros are less impressive, but they really don’t matter since you’ll be skipping to the next episode anyways.

What Attack on Titan does better then probably any anime I’ve seen to this point is creating a world for you to invest in and for it to construct and deconstruct at will. It’s a fairly basic military-fights-evil-plot at its core (i.e. Starship Troopers, FMA), but it also contains some of the most unique ideas I’ve encountered in a while. It’s got one of the best beginnings an anime has had, with a momentum that doesn’t stop until halfway through the show. Every world-shattering cliffhanger works because they’ve made the world seem comfortable despite the danger. It’s only until the second half where the momentum wears off that you can really see both the flaws and intricacies of not only the world, but the show itself. Attack on Titan is an action-filled blockbuster of anime, yes, but also has a strong story, beautiful animation, and decent characters to back it up. Is it perfect, by no means, but it’s one of the most enjoyable anime to watch and a thrill-ride that should not be missed. The ending is unfortunately non-existent, with the series before us feeling like a part 1 and 2 of a much greater story. Thanks to the popularity of this show, it’s hard to imagine it not getting a second series. A second series would hopefully alleviate many of the problems I have with the show, but we’ll have to see. If you don’t want to read the manga, I would recommend you hold off on watching Attack on Titan until closer to that imaginary second series’ air date, unless you want to join in with the legions of Otaku worshipping this show. Nonetheless, if you do choose to watch it now or whenever you’re reading this be prepared for a long marathon ahead of you, but please don’t let the hype raise your expectations too far. Attack on Titan is currently available from both Crunchyroll and as well as having been licensed by Funimation for an upcoming DVD/Blue-Ray release.

Wasting Time After Class

50 Questions You’ve Never Been Asked
1. What’s your favorite candle scent?
The non-scented kind
2. What female celebrity do you wish was your sister?
The Nostalgia Chick
3. What male celebrity do you wish was your brother?
4. How old do you think you’ll be when you get married?
Idk… mid to late 20s
5. Do you know a hoarder?
In a sense that I collect a lot of things and have trouble letting go of items, but I don’t horde a ton of trash
6. Can you do a split?
hahahahahahaha NO
7. How old were you when you learned how to ride a bike?
Idk like 6?
8. How many oceans have you swam in?
9. How many countries have you been to?
10. Is anyone in your family in the army?
Yes, my uncle served as a reserve and my uncle was in the Latverian Army
11. What would you name your daughter if you had one?
12. What would you name your son if you had one?
13. What’s the worst grade you got on a test?
14. What was your favorite TV show when you were a child?
Dude George Shrinks and Scooby Doo all the way!
15. What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight?
I think that was the year of the Vampire, but I’m probably wrong
16. Have you read any of the Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Twilight series?
Just Harry Potter and I have NO interest in the others
17. Would you rather have an American accent or a British accent?
OMFG if I had a British accent that would be great
18. Did your mother go to college?
19. Are your grandparents still married?
no on both accounts
20. Have you ever taken karate lessons?
21. Do you know who Kermit the frog is?
22. What’s the first amusement park you’ve been to?
Camp Snoopy I think
23. What language, besides your native language, would you like to be fluent in?
Latin or Anglo-Saxon, but if I’m being realistic I’d say French
24. Do you spell the color as grey or gray?
both, depending on my mood
25. Is your father bald?
Not the last time I checked
26. Do you know triplets?
I feel like I do, but I can’t think of anyone so I guess not
27. Do you prefer Titanic or The Notebook?
Titanic and I haven’t even seen it yet
28. Have you ever had Indian food?
Nope and I’m not planning on it
29. What’s the name of your favorite restaurant?
La Ciudad
30. Have you ever been to Olive Garden?
Indeed… it was meh
31. Do you belong to any warehouse stores (Costco, BJ’s, etc.)?
Nope, Aldi for the Win!
32. What would your parents have named you if you were the opposite gender?
33. If you have a nickname, what is it?
Not that anyone’s called me this in a while, but my old nickname was Justino Ruler of the Casino
34. Who’s your favorite person in the world?
Jack Benny… oh wait he’s dead, well then Kelly I guess!
35. Would you rather live in a rural area or in the suburbs?
Suburbs, because it’s a good go-between
36. Can you whistle?
Quite well, I like to think
37. Do you sleep with a nightlight?
Well unless you count the light of my laptop as I watch a Lets Play, no
38. Do you eat breakfast every morning?
I try to!
39. Do you take any pills or medication daily?
40. What medical conditions do you have?
Cancer, AIDS, Alzheimers, ADHD, and the Gout
41. How many times have you been to the hospital?
A few times… both for good and bad things
42. Have you ever seen Finding Nemo?
Yeah, pretty good movie
43. Where do you buy your jeans?
Kohls, because I’m veryveryvery picky
44. What’s the last compliment you got?
45. Do you usually remember your dreams in the morning?
Yes, but not for long unless I think about it
46. What flavor tea do you enjoy?
Hot Chocolate
47. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?
5 including sandals and flip-flops
48. What religion will you raise your children to practice?
A combination of Mormonism and Paganism just to troll their teachers. Nah, I’d let them choose
49. How old were you when you found out that Santa wasn’t real?
I don’t remember, but there were many years where I knew but didn’t say anything/admit it ti myself
50. Why do you have a blog?
I want to have a blog because I want somewhere to put my thoughts, recommendations and most importantly my reviews, because I want people to hear what I have to say and I want to help people find good movies.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation (2013) 3 Episode Review

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation is a 2013 animated visual novel that is one of the few Lets Plays to ever be broadcast on TV before. Ok if you haven’t guessed… I don’t like this one. Just for clarification this is a 3 episode analysis. It’s my belief that after 3 episodes the makers should have clearly established story, characters, and style and thus it can be judged on its initial quality. All my opinions following are based on these episodes alone and if the show becomes fucking amazing in the 4th episode then oops my bad. As stated before Dangan Ronpa is based off a visual novel and its bland characters, constant dialogue and predictability all reflect that in the worst possible way.

Dangan Ronpa is the story of new high school student Mr. Bland who somehow managed to get into Hope Academy, one of the most respected schools in the country. However when he arrives he finds himself (and the other students) trapped in the mechanizations of a psychotic, reality defying teddy bear. The only way to graduate is to kill someone else… and get away with it. Things escalate quickly as bodies pile up and mysteries demand to be solved for the sake of survival. Trust me, it sounds cooler then it is.

I’ve never played the visual novel but from what I can tell Dangan Ronpa is extremely accurate in its portrayal. The character models and environment look spot on, in all of its blandness and stereotyping. The only time the animation gets interesting is in the punishment scenes where it completely changes to a hyperactive 2D-image-in-a-3D-space visual style. I thought this was going to be used to make the violence on screen seem more tame, but barely anything was actually shown instead focusing on everything but the actual act being committed.

There’s the indescribable sense that show is fucking high on speed and is trying to be weird for the sake of being weird. The world typically feels fairly normal, but then something fucking strange will show up, like an evil stuffed bear OR PINK BLOOD. The graphics, shots and editing are all fast and hyperactive. This all reminds me of some souped up commercial for the latest product that all you kids should buy, buy, buy, RIGHT NOW! Now this wouldn’t be a bad thing if what was weird was enjoyably so and if the actual pace of the story matched the pace of the presentation. For example, The Bastard Swordsman is a Shaw Brothers movie that’s incredibly fast paced and involves a samurai emerging from a giant egg. The premise is weird, the characters are weird, and the movie’s plot moves as fast as it’s editing and shots suggest. This anime has a basic Battle Royale premise, with boring characters that are all stereotypes and boring ass dialogue that barely moves the plot forward until some character pulls some revelation out of their ass that you saw coming from a mile away or couldn’t possibly have seen coming because the show purposefully withheld information from you.

Watching Dangan Ronpa is like watching someone play the visual novel. It’s characters standing around talking and you have no reason to be invested because our protagonist is blannndddd and you know that at some point a random event will interrupt the constant repeating of the same stupid lines to finally move the plot along whether you bothered to pay attention or not. Dangan Ronpa had the potential to be good, if they had taking the story and characters and added some depth and psychology to their actions, making it more realistic or if they had said “Fuck it” and turned it into some bat-shit insane weird-fest with characters dying left and right. Instead, they decided to present the source material as is and because of that I’m recommending you pass on this one, unless the concept really seems grabbing to you.

The Conjuring (2013) review

“The Conjuring” is the 2013 supernatural horror movie from director James Wan and is based on the real-life investigation by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film is yet another haunted house movie, but its 70s style, strong leads and brilliant directing put this film far above its contemporaries. For those who don’t know the film’s fairly basic plot, here it is. A family of seven move into an old farmhouse and soon are faced with sinister paranormal phenomena. They call in Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate and (along with their assistant and a skeptical cop) the two unveil the goings-on of the house even at the risk of their own family.

The characters of the Ed and Lorraine stand out in the movie compared to the rest of the fairly bland characters. This is mostly due to the authenticity of the performances in portraying the real-life people, but also because they are unique characters in modern day horror movies. You can connect to them the same way you can the family, because they are people too. However they are above the average victim in that they know what’s going on and they can deal with it. It’s a fine line between hero and average joe that I’ve never really seen in a horror film before. Are they perfect? Of course not. The conflict between them over Lorraine’s safety feels quite forced after a while, but it doesn’t detract from the movie at all and frankly, I would be happy to see these characters again in a sequel.

The rest of the characters are all fairly bland, but have enough characteristics to them that they don’t feel like cardboard cutouts. Rather it feels like we just don’t know them well enough. The performances all around are fair, but nothing outstanding. The kids do a good job for being child actors, with the exception of a few spotty scenes. The father under-acts, often times feeling a touch too stoic and the mother is actually fairly good, especially when comparing the two sides of her performance. The cop and the assistant make good comic relief, but also serve their purpose and don’t feel shoved in (a mistake many other movies make).

In fact, everything in this movie, at least on an initial viewing, seems to have a purpose. The exposition is given fairly well, told through a brilliant opening sequence as well as college lectures. College lectures are a commonplace tool for exposition, foreshadowing, or laying the groundwork for symbolism, but the difference here is that it doesn’t feel forced when watching it. The lectures play into the plot, as well as give insight into character backgrounds and this helps them fit seamlessly into the movie. The character interactions and paranormal trickery all play on older ones to either push the plot along or provide a sense of dread. For example, a line of dialogue from the middle of the movie may provide a crucial plot point later in the movie, and a ghostly sighting in a bedroom will give you inordinate amounts of dread the next time the characters wander in there. In this way the movie feels almost too neat, like it tricked you into thinking it was developing characters when really it was just servicing the plot. But of course, you are so in awe of how all the pieces fit together that you forgive this misgiving.

Even with the strong writing and acting, what really makes this movie something special is the directing. Wan’s work almost seems to have been building up to this point, with him learning different techniques and mastering different styles of storytelling. The ‘70s flair of this movie is hard to ignore, with camera angles, zooms and lighting all screaming “Halloween” and “The Legend of Hell House.” This combined with the very accurate costuming and production design creates a vibe that is only a few steps behind Ti West’s ‘70s homage “House of the devil.” This film differs, however, from “House of the Devil in that its scares don’t come from just the third act.

“The Conjuring” is scary throughout, using the classic technique of ramping up the fear at night and giving relief during the day, all the while escalating at a very brisk pace towards its climax. The majority of the scares do come from jump scares, but it does not use scary music and loud noises to get you to jump. It instead uses the aforementioned dread and tension to get you all tense, then snaps that suspense in the most unexpected ways. It should be noted that this movie avoids the obvious jump scares almost constantly (with a few exceptions) and that is partly why it’s so effective. We expect Action A to happen, but instead it’s glazed over, building the tension more as our minds race to where the scare could come from. Sometimes the scares don’t come at all, like in the opening sequence where there’s not a single jump scare and instead it concentrates on setting the tone of creepiness for of the movie. When the scares do happen they are, above all else, clever. The games the spirits, and by default Wan, play are sometimes disturbingly pleasing. It’s that same joy that someone can derive from a bad guy’s clever plot, or a unique Saw trap. The doll named Annabelle and the innocent game of Hide and Clap are bound to become internet memes thanks to this movie.

This movie, above all else defies expectations. People who hate horror movies are going to hate this movie no matter what, but people who think jump scares are cheap or are just tired of paranormal clichés should walk into this movie with an open mind, because you may be surprised in more ways then one. Above all else I must emphasize that this movie should not be seen by children. This is a movie that even if you don’t find scary, contains all the elements to scar a child. It’s a blend of realism, familiarity, and bat-shit insanity and it’s sure to please for decades to come and it most certainly is going in my collection. James Wan’s career has been building up to this movie, and I feel that he still has a little ways to go. So if studios can keep a hands-off approach with his projects, we are sure to get some movies that every horror fan will be proud to call scary.